Rape is an emotional topic. Much has been done in recent years to raise our awareness of the problems of sexual harassment in the workplace and rape on many prominent college campuses. In the midst of all these actions, some have charged that the Bible and by extension, Christianity, with its emphasis on gender and role distinctions have contributed to this violence.
On its face, the claim has some appeal. The fear of a male dominated society where women are treated as mere chattel is one that looms large in our collective imagination. The Bible then, a product of such a male dominated culture, must be reprehensibly backwards in its outlook, and Christianity which derives its very identity from the Bible, must too be backwards and a contributor to the gender bias and larger abuse in our society.
But wait just a moment. Can we really link the rape that occurs on some of America’s most secular universities to Christianity and “traditional values”? Can we really charge that in a predominantly secular society, the main contributor to the “rape culture” and discrimination in general is a system of thought wherein sexual misconduct is denounced as sin, threatened with Church sanctions and eternal condemnation?
What does secularism have to offer to this conversation? Sex must be with consent we are told, or the state will take action against it. Is this not the opposite of what we are told in other contexts? You are a type of primate. Life progresses by competition. There are no true moral absolutes. Everything is meaningless- even sex! Do what feels good. Sex is just a bodily need and we should expect it even among children. We should not discourage it. The true mistake is repression of sexuality which is unhealthy.
Do you see how a male, inundated with this conversation, might feel compelled to act on his sexual desires in blatant disregard of the woman he is violating? He does not even accept that his desires are bad, disordered; he has not been trained to think this way. So when strong sexual desires consume him, are we surprised if a man acts irrationally and selfishly?
Then there are the lies that society believes and tells about men. We start with the low standard: Men are expected to be pigs. Pornography is normal. Sexual deviance is to be expected as the norm (even if it is disgusting). “Boys will be boys,” as they say. Add to that the shame which society heaps on men for being masculine. Never is a man held up to become a protector or provider. Those are inflammatory words. Men are discouraged from living up to what they must be, mocked and shamed if they try to live up to their purpose. You are a bigot. Your strength is a threat to us.
Men don’t need sympathy in this. Men must be men even if they receive no support along the way, for that too is masculine. What men and lovers of men need, however, is to see through the lies.
What does Christianity contribute to this conversation? Rape and all sexual misconduct is absolutely wrong and never acceptable. It is a sin against God and men. Men are entirely responsible for their actions and are capable of rising above their desires to live self-controlled, godly lives. Women do not deserve to be abused. They should be loved, cherished and respected and should and not tolerate any such abuse from anyone.
Such an answer is unrivaled in its clarity for the modern issue of rape! Yet many Christians are intimidated or bullied into silence because of unfounded accusations that the Bible contributes to the problem and therefore so do Christians. In this first post I have demonstrated the inconsistency of this argument within the broader secular worldview. I offer the Christian response above as an alternative to this flawed reasoning. In my Part 2 of our study on rape I will show that the Bible itself is not bigoted and does not encourage or condone rape.